Monday, May 12, 2008

Packing Your Life Away In Boxes

We've moved a lot over the last eight years.

When U was seven months old, we packed most of our belongings and moved them to my brother's girlfriend's garage. We took a few things in the trunk of an old Mercury Topaz to Fayteville, North Carolina. We didn't acquire much in the few months we lived there but the few things we did buy ended up in boxes stored in my mom's new apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our clothes, a few photos, some books, and cds made a bus trip from North Carolina to Mexico City. We left Mexico City with a few more items stuffed into suitcases which moved with us back to Charlotte. In Charlotte, we've lived in five different apartments. Each time we moved more and more stuff even as we got rid, gave away, and trashed even more things. With each move we both added and discarded various things.

Whenever I move I feel this overwhelming urge to simplify what we own. But it becomes harder with each move. But it some ways it becomes an art. You start to see things as holding meaning, and you have to decided if that meaning is worth holding onto. With some things its easy. We do not need to keep the old dining room table that is basically falling apart. Or Camille and Piper's old highchair. The computer desk is a mess and is ready for the recycling pile. That tall bookshelf which was always a piece of shit and doesn't really hold books well...gone. But even these easy things hold memory. The table we bought on sale at Garden Ridge, and we were so excited to have a real dining room table. It has been the center of much our family life. It's held dinner for us and friends. It's been the creating space of many paintings, crayon ponies and rainbows. U has sat there and learned to write. I am blogging from this table at this very minute. The highchair held first birthday cakes for both Camille and Piper. The bookshelf was a point of contention with H and I when we put it together. Get rid of it now or later? And of course it held precious books.

Imagine then the conflict over items that seem more important. How much baby stuff do we really need to keep? Duplicate photos? What about the books that seem to multiply with each new home? And our beloved cds? H and I debated whether we should burn them on the computer and then sell them. I won out and we're keeping them. They were Christmas gifts to each other, special purchases from local record stores, memories and more held on a little silver disk. Then there are the framed prints, the Chinese character painting we had done at an international festival. There are my various Buddhas. Our cats and lizards. The gifts from H's mom from Mexico. There is our lovely Tibetan mask who scares away the demons. Boxes and boxes of tea. So much stuff that speaks about us.

Tonight I packed away books, files, and photos. Our home is starting to look bare and sparse. There is a beauty to these bare white walls but a sadness that H feels quite deeply. He kept sighing as I put more and more things away or into the trash. Huge boxes filled with my school books now line the walls. Tomorrow we'll rent a storage shed and put these things away for the summer. We'll leave for Mexico to return and find yet another new home. And then a year from now we'll hopefully repack these things (and no doubt more things) as we prepare to move to another city likely in another state. We'll yet again linger over items, remembering their stories, the memories they have come to hold for us. We are modern nomads with too much stuff.


Erica said...

That´s the story of my life. The longest I've lived in one city is 7 years. The longest I've live in the same place is 6 years.

I also have this urge to simplify but find it harder to do it sometimes. Specially with clutter and papers. I still have with my notes from some of my classes at UNAM 15 years ago. I have brochures from places I've traveled to, keys that open I don't know what, coins from different countries, tapes and vhs videos that I don't think we'll ever watch again, phone numbers from people I don't even know who they are, cards (from libraries, grocery stores, airlines, you name it ...)

I need to do something about it, because next time we move, I don't want to pack all this stuff.

Good luck!

Adela said...

Good luck! La mejor suerte!

Horacio said...

i try not to accumulate stuff but it always ends up happening: things and stuff can't leave behind.
when i was a teenager i used to keep cigarrette butts, receipts, broken pencils, and other gross stuff in my jacket pockets because it was a way to avoid letting go of the past, certain people, certain experiences.

Jess said...

MTP and I are the same way when we move. Some of the decisions are so hard, but we've managed to pare our stuff down to a real bare minimum (books, DVDs, clothes--I admit I have a clothes thing). We joke that after our next move we'll be able to fit all of our stuff--and us--in a walk in closet. Ha. Anyway, good luck!!